Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sponsored Content: Thoughtful or Thoughtless?

Allison O'Brien

Sponsored Content
This group of articles was all about "sponsored content." The article How news organizations can sell sponsored content without lowering their standards really caught by with its relevant and insightful points. But what is sponsored content? According to Josh Sternberg with Digiday, it can be defined as when "a brand pays a publisher to have its name and/or message associated with a particular story." The Poynter article by Jeff Sonderman talks about how BuzzFeed  relies on sponsored content and how they have mastered it.  Sonderman discuses the importance of your sponsored content reflecting the values of your publication as well as primarily serving the reader.

As mentioned above, it appears that BuzzFeed seems to be one of the best examples of a master of sponsored content. They encourage their advertisers to post fun BuzzFeed-esque posts rather than just writing about themselves.  In addition, members of the BuzzFeed team work closely with the various sponsors to come up with the best content for the brand as well as the BuzzFeed audience.

At BuzzFeed, the people who handle sponsored content generation include former BuzzFeed editors, ad agency creative staff and Web culture bloggers. The article also mentions a critical question in choosing appropriate sponsored content: Would I consider running this content if it wasn't sponsored? If the answer is yes then you're good to go, but if the answer is no you may need to reevaluate .

What do people think of sponsored content?
An article by Erin Griffith of Fortune discussed the fact that some people feel deceived by sponsored content and think it can even damage the credibility of the digital publisher. According to a survey conducted by a survey called Contently, 2/3 of responders reported that they feel deceived when they realize that an article or video was in fact brand-sponsored. As an avid social media user, I find myself not so much deceived, but more frustrated when I scroll on Twitter or Instagram and see a sponsored ad or video.  Within the same study, it also appears that readers are pretty confused by what sponsored content even means.    

Things to remember
The Poynter article shows us that in order for sponsored content to be successful, there are some things to remember. First and foremost, it's important for sponsored content to share the same principles and values as your publication's regular content. As the article states, sponsored content should "fit in" with the kind of content that your publication is known for. It's also important to make sure that your sponsored content still serves the reader and stays away from "hard sells" because people most likely won't respond well.  I know I personally hate hard sells, but does anyone really like them? 

Mike Orren, President of Speakeasy explains in order for content marketing to be effective it "should be useful even to someone not interested in buying," "is not disguised," "provides value to the reader" and is honest and without hyperbole." In reality, sponsored content should be labeled, but also have some form of disclosure to give readers all the necessary information regarding the content. 

It's important to make sure you you are not misleading or disrespecting your readers and last but not least, remember to be transparent!

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